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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Blood Libel

The people who falsely and maliciously accused Sarah Palin of inciting Jared Loughner to murder now are criticizing Palin for using the term "blood libel."

The term "blood libel" has it's origins in the accusation in Europe (and more modern times, in the Middle East) that Jews use the blood of Christian (and Muslim) children to make matzoh.

Matthew Yglesias of Think Progress, who was responsible along with Markos Molitsas of DailyKos for spreading the connection between the Palin electoral target map and the shooting, smugly asserts that Palin just can't take criticism:
"Indeed, Jews throughout America can join me in remembering when our ancestors fled Eastern Europe in order to live in a land where nobody would ever criticize us on television."
In fact, as Jim Geraghty of National Review Online documents, the use of the term "blood libel" in political discourse is common both on the left and the right to describe incendiary false accusations which tend to blame a person for inciting violence and making the person a target of violence.

Much like the use of the term "holocaust" (e.g., nuclear holocaust) is not used in the strict sense of The Holocaust, the use of the term "blood libel" does not offend the traditional meaning of the term.

The looser, more modern usage of the term certainly seems to fit here. 

Palin was not just "criticized on television," she was accused of inciting murder even though there was and is no actual evidence that the electoral target map played any role in the Tucson shooting.  The connection of Palin to the shooting was a smear by people who did not care about the truth.

Similarly, the smear has made Palin a target for hatred and violence, including widespread death wishes and threats:  [Update:  YouTube pulled the video.  All of the screen shots were saved by a reader and are available here and at Patterico.  The video now is embedded here.]



Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League has a reasonable statement which criticizes the use of the term without hyperventilation and while recognizing that the common usage does not necessarily comport with historical usage (emphasis mine):
It was inappropriate at the outset to blame Sarah Palin and others for causing this tragedy or for being an accessory to murder. Palin has every right to defend herself against these kinds of attacks, and we agree with her that the best tradition in America is one of finding common ground despite our differences.
Still, we wish that Palin had not invoked the phrase “blood-libel” in reference to the actions of journalists and pundits in placing blame for the shooting in Tucson on others. While the term “blood-libel” has become part of the English parlance to refer to someone being falsely accused, we wish that Palin had used another phrase, instead of one so fraught with pain in Jewish history.
I don't have a problem with Palin's use of the term; it seems to comport with the modern usage.  Those feigning indignation simply seek to feign indignation.

Were the false accusations against Palin a blood libel?  Or merely malicious, vindictive false accusations of complicity in murder made for the purpose of inciting hatred of Palin?

Some choice.

Update:  Johnathan Chait at The New Republic, Lord Help Me, I'm Defending Palin (emphasis mine):
Okay, it's a little over the top for Sarah Palin to accuse her critics of "blood libel." But she does have a basic point. She had nothing to do with Jared Loughner. He was not an extremist who embraced some radical version of her ideas. And her use of targets to identify districts Republicans were, um, targetting is not exceptional or prone to incite anybody.

What's happening is that Palin has come to represent unhinged grassroots conservatism, and people in the media immediately (and incorrectly) associated Loughner with the far right. Moreover, the Republican establishment understands her potential candidacy as a liability and is looking to snuff it out. So you have this weird moment where Palin is on trial for something she has no connection with at all.
Alan Dershowitz (via Instapundit)(emphasis mine):
The term “blood libel” has taken on a broad metaphorical meaning in public discourse. Although its historical origins were in theologically based false accusations against the Jews and the Jewish People, its current usage is far broader. I myself have used it to describe false accusations against the State of Israel by the Goldstone Report. There is nothing improper and certainly nothing anti-Semitic in Sarah Palin using the term to characterize what she reasonably believes are false accusations that her words or images may have caused a mentally disturbed individual to kill and maim. The fact that two of the victims are Jewish is utterly irrelevant to the propriety of using this widely used term.
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12 comments:

  1. I find it beyond absurd that these leftist organizations that let the antisemitism of the Moslem world and their own leftist friends go unchallenged, have no issue with attacking Palin for any reason that they can conjure up in their unhealthy little minds. It is truly getting tiresome and quite frankly its rather infantile.It is time for them to seek counseling for their Palin Derangement Syndrome, but wait they will probably blame Palin for causing the PDS they need to be treated for.

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  2. This may not be a perfect analogy -- what analogy is? -- but I think using "blood libel" the way Palin did is roughly equivalent to someone being "crucified" for something they said or did (outside the literal sense, of course). For example, if someone next year said Mitt Romney is being crucified by his opponents over the Massachusetts health care law, everyone would understand what was meant by that and perhaps a very small number of people would cringe at the religious origin of the reference. It certainly wouldn't be considered out of bounds.

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  3. I might have been on to something with my previous post referring to things getting out of hand to "Biblical Proportions", especially today.

    Are we actually going to debate now whether Sarah Palin ACTUALLY felt that Jews used Christian childrens blood to make food and what a ignoramus she is to have said such a thing and how insulting is she to the P/L/Dem Jewish brethren. Or are we going to not play into the evil forces that continue to jockey for first place?

    Thank You, Mr. Jacobson. I have never in my Catholic upbringing and catechism been taught such a tale as 'Christian infused matzoh'. Reaching for ancient text to prove whose right and wrong WILL indeed prove who is right and who is wrong. Light and truth reign again.

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  4. Inasmuch as the phrase was used to describe the deliberate dissemination of fact-free accusations that Jews committed murder as part of their religion, and that this was done by their accusers for political purposes - I think that Palin hit the nail on the head.

    Ooooh, can I say that? "Hit the nail on the head" could make someone become violent.

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  5. “The term ‘blood libel’ has taken on a broad metaphorical meaning in public discourse. Although its historical origins were in theologically based false accusations against the Jews and the Jewish People, its current usage is far broader. I myself have used it to describe false accusations against the State of Israel by the Goldstone Report. There is nothing improper and certainly nothing
    anti-Semitic in Sarah Palin using the term to characterize what she reasonably believes are false accusations that her words or images may have caused a mentally disturbed individual to kill and maim. The fact that two of the victims are Jewish is utterly irrelevant to the propriety of using this widely used term.”

    "Alan Dershowitz - Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, no right-wing sympathizer, on Palin’s use of the term “blood libel”:
    via Big Government

    Sarah Palin got it right.

    "Falsely accusing someone of shedding blood is the definition of a blood libel – whether it’s the medieval Church accusing Jews of baking blood in Passover matzos, or contemporary Muslim extremists accusing Israel of slaughtering Arabs to harvest their organs – or our political partisans blaming conservative political figures and talk show hosts for the Tucson massacre."

    http://jewsforsarah.com/

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  6. Great post. Excellent information on this loaded topic.

    I read earlier in the day that the video you linked to is under threat of being taken down (48 hr warning) because it "contains threatening content," or something. Amazing. Someone puts together a video to expose losers who make Twitter death threats/wishes, but the video - meant to inform and expose hate - is being censored by YouTube for hateful content! The irony, the Orwellian irony.

    What an insane world we live in.... Maybe the video poster should add a preface to the content with what the video's purpose is, and a warning of violent threats and foul language. Given these people's sentiments and hate, I pray for the safety of Sarah Palin and her family.

    I'll say it again: sick hearts, sick minds, sick souls.

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  7. William you are doing a great job. First of all you have explained the origin of "blood-libel" and then explained how it is used in modern parlance.

    The absurdity of these left wing nutcases is that they fail to see the irony of their position!! The original blood-libel was based upon lies and it was for political purposes. These left wing nutcases have done exactly the same thing to Sarah Palin and the TEA movement. They have made up stories making a false link in order to create a false image. On top of that they have done it with the purpose of creating violence against the people that they have libelled. In other words the use of blood libel is indeed appropriate in this instance.

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  8. John Scalzi's post on this subject is titled Yeah, No, and had this warning: If you attempt to argue here that what Palin is complaining about is actually blood libel, I’m going to mallet your comment. If it’s not clear from the entry itself, I find the suggestion rhetorically overstuffed, historically inaccurate and morally appalling, and Palin acted stupidly when she asserted it.

    I knew it was a mistake to even read his post because I know he's a liberal with an eager suck-up squad. But I read it anyway, and I linked to your blog. This was my comment:
    William A. Jacobson, Associate Clinical Professor, Cornell Law School had this to say: "I don't have a problem with Palin's use of the term; it seems to comport with the modern usage. Those feigning indignation simply seek to feign indignation."

    He also said this: "Similarly, the smear has made Palin a target for hatred and violence, including widespread death wishes and threats."


    I just checked to see if anyone responded and saw that Scalzi had deleted my comment and left this in its place:
    [Aaaand the first fall of the Mallet. I really was hoping not to use it in the first 50 comments, but we got it in under the wire.

    On a related note, I don't care whether you find someone on a blog saying Palin's use of it is perfectly cromulent --JS


    Well, I can't say I wasn't warned.

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  9. 1.7% of the US population*
    American Holocaust*
    controlled media*
    Blood Libel

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  10. The following is a comment I posted at "The Daily Caller" in re Charles Krauthammer's comment on Sarah Palin's statement:


    The Wicked Witch of the North takes pen to Facebook from her igloo at the North Pole and ’tis a mighty thunderbolt. ALL of the establishment are pissing their pants. The smart ones are starting to hedge their bets. Charles maybe ain’t as smart as most people, or he, think.

    I’ve been watching this scene since Truman. I have never seen a politician claim this level of attention. Even Reagan never attained it except in retrospect. Interesting times.

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  11. It seems Sarah Palin has 'hijacked the narrative' (heh!) once again. "Death panels", and now "Blood libel", the latter perfectly describing collective blame for what it is. Bang! Half inch MOA from 1800 miles.

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  12. I think it is a matter of perspective. There are those (Medved, etc.) that defend her use of the term, but wish she had picked another. Nice and reasonable (Medved goes for conciliation at all costs), but they aren't in Palin's shoes.

    Had someone just accused me of being accessory or instigator of mass murder, there would be NO term that I would consider over the top in my response.

    Those that accuse her of antisemitism reveal themselves by their accusations.

    I, personally, hope that Palin keeps on doing what she does and avoids the siren song of a POTUS run. But, I enjoy her hitting the nail on the head and driving the pointy head types absolutely bonkers. Death Panels, Blood Libel. One overlooked is her comment on food price inflation. Anyone that goes to the grocery store knows it is happening, the elites insist it isn't. Score one more for Palin.

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